Informed consent is required before placing an epidural. At our hospital, teaching of residents about this is done informally at the bedside. This study aimed to assess the ability of anesthesia residents to acquire and retain knowledge required when seeking informed consent for epidural labor analgesia. It assessed how well this knowledge was translated to clinical ability, by assessing the verbal consent process during an interaction with a standardized patient.
Twenty anesthesia residents were randomized to a ‘didactic group’ or a ‘simulation group’. Each resident was presented with a written scenario and asked to document the informed consent process, as they normally would do (pre-test). The didactic group then had a presentation about informed consent, while the simulation group members interviewed a simulated patient, the scenarios focusing on different aspects of consent. All residents then read a scenario and documented their informed consent process (post-test). Six weeks later all residents interviewed a standardized patient in labor and documented the consent from this interaction (six-week test).
There was no significant difference in the baseline performance of the two groups. Both groups showed significant improvement in their written consent documentation at the immediate time point, the improvement in the didactic group being greater. The didactic group performed better at both the immediate time point and the six-week time point.
In this small study, a didactic teaching method proved better than simulation-based teaching in helping residents to gain knowledge needed to obtain informed consent for epidural labor analgesia.
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